Reassessing Anime: Japanese cinema and animation

Anime is a visual enigma. Its otherworldly allure and burgeoning popularity across the globe highlights its unique ability to be more than just another type of animation. Originally a novelty export from post-war Japan, anime has now become a subtle yet important part of Western popular culture. Furthermore, it remains a key area of audience and fan research that crosses all generations – children, teenagers, and adults. From Osamu Tezuka to Hayao Miyazaki, Akira (Katsuhiro Ôtomo, 1988) to Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995), anime’s extraordinary characters and oneiric content still enable it to be regarded as one of the most awe-inspiring visual spectacles going into and during the twenty-first century.
    Keenly aware of anime’s rich history, cultural and global context, and increasing presence and influence on Western art, literature and film, the theme of this issue of Cinephile is ‘Reassessing Anime.’ The six articles included herein aim to address and tackle some of the overlooked aspects of anime. Such a reassessment by each author hopes to encourage future academic scholarship into the evolution and value of anime and, moreover, its impact not only on film but also on TV, comic books, video games, music videos, and corporate marketing strategies. [Jonathan A. Cannon, Editor’s Note, Cinephile, ‘Reassessing Anime’, 7.1, 2011. FSFF‘s hyperlinks]

Film Studies For Free is delighted to announce that the Spring 2011 issue of Cinephile, the excellent film journal edited out of the University of British Columbia, Canada, has just been made available for download for free as a single PDF file.

As signalled above, this issue is dedicated to “Reassessing Anime” and it features great, original articles by internationally renowned animation scholars Paul Wells and Philip Brophy, as well as illustrations by Vancouver-based artist Chloe Chan.

The issue’s table of contents is given below, and below that, FSFF has also provided a handy, clickable index of its own popular posts on anime and Japanese cinema.

The latest issue of Cinephile, available for purchase now, is on Contemporary Realism. It features original articles by Ivone Margulies and Richard Rushton. There is also a call for papers on “The Voice Over”.

  • ‘Playing the Kon Trick: Between Dates, Dimensions and Daring in the films of Satoshi Kon’ by Paul Wells
  • ‘The Sound of an Android’s Soul: Music, Muzak and MIDI in Time of Eve‘ by Philip Brophy
  • ‘Beyond Maids and Meganekko: Examining the Moe Phenomenon’ by Michael R. Bowman
  • ‘Reviewing the ‘Japaneseness’ of Japanese Animation: Genre Theory and Fan Spectatorship’ by Jane Leong
  • ‘The Higurashi Code: Algorithm and Adaptation in the Otaku Industry and Beyond’ by John Wheeler
  • ‘Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence: Thinking Before the Act’ by Frédéric Clément 

Film Studies For Free on Anime and Japanese Cinema

Animation Studies: Three Fabulous Online Resources

Updated with a call for papers on November 15
Lignes verticales/Lines Vertical (Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, 1960). Read Aimee Mollaghan’s article on McLaren’s Line Films here.

Animation has an unlimited potential to visually represent events, scenarios and forms that have little or no relation to our experience of the ‘real’ world. Implemented in many ways, in many disciplines, it is increasingly influencing our perception and experience of the world we live in. This timely and groundbreaking international conference unites speakers from a wide range of research agendas and creative practices. It facilitates much-needed dialogue centred on the ubiquitous and interdisciplinary nature of animation, its potentially radical future development, and its ethical responsibilities for spatial politics in moving image culture. The conference’s contributors include Norman Klein, Michael Snow, Vivian Sobchack, Tom Gunning, Anthony McCall, George Griffin, Suzanne Buchan, Beatriz Colomina, Edwin Carels, Siegfried Zielinski, Lisa Cartwright, Johnny Hardstaff and Esther Leslie. Especially since the digital shift, the uses of animation are no longer exclusive to cinema, and animation’s origins in pre-cinematic optical experiments through avant-garde experimental film continue to evolve in fascinating ways. Artists increasingly incorporate animation in installations and exhibitions, architects use computer animation software to create narratives of space in time, and scientists use it to interpret abstract concepts for a breadth of industries ranging from biomedicine to nanoworlds. Pervasive Animation provides a dynamic international forum to explore animation’s myriad forms and applications across a wide band of creative and professional practice. Organised by Suzanne Buchan, Reader in Animation Studies and Director of the Animation Research Centre at the University College for the Creative Arts, and Stuart Comer, Curator of Film at Tate.

Film Studies For Free animatedly highlights three fabulous Animation Studies resources today. First up, through the second of the two videos embedded above, you can access the entire, recorded proceedings of a very high quality conference on animation held in 2007 at London’s Tate Modern.

FSFF heard about those videos through the fantastic Experimental Animation website which houses, and links to, many more animation treasures, like Lignes verticales/Lines VerticalNorman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart‘s brilliant 1960 opus embedded at the top of this post.

Finally, the third amazing resource du jour are the below contents of the volumes of Animation Studies, the online, Open Access and peer-reviewed Journal of the Society for Animation Studies (also on Twitter as @anistudies). See also the Society’s Call for Papers for an upcoming conference at the foot of this post.

“Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”

Animation Studies – the Journal of the Society for Animation Studies

Call for Papers:
‘The Animation Machine’ – The 24th Society for Animation Studies Conference

Date: June 25-27, 2012

Hosted by: RMIT University
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Keynote speakers include:

•         Thomas Lamarre (McGill University, Canada)

•         Tomotaka Takahashi (The University of Tokyo, Japan)

The Society for Animation Studies (SAS) invites submissions of proposals for individual papers and panels for its 24th Annual Conference, which will be held in Melbourne, Australia at RMIT University, 25-27 June 2012.

Animation production and consumption has continued to grow as animation itself has become ever more prevalent and visible in recent years. In parallel, the field of animation studies has expanded excitingly and dramatically, bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplines.

The theme of this year’s conference, ‘The Animation Machine’, reflects the wide range of processes, technologies, histories and structures in animation. As movement is an essential aspect of animation, whatever creates that movement may constitute an animation machine and one could conceive that animation is itself a machine. The animation machine can be considered from both the production process and the end product. Therefore, it refers to the machines of animation presentation, be these pre-20th century animation devices, movie or video screens, or even automata. The animation machine also relates to the multitude of animation production processes – from animating technologies (animation stands, cameras, computers), through to the animator’s individual creative practice. Ultimately, the animation machine can be described quite broadly and we welcome your own interpretations.

With the centenary of Australian animation approaching, the 2012 conference will also provide an opportunity to highlight some of Australia’s animation heritage. The conference will coincide with the Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) and a number of crossover events are planned.

We invite proposals on a wide range of animation topics on all aspects of animation history, theory and criticism for 20-minute conference presentations. Proposals may include (but are not limited to) the following topics:

•         Australian Animation

•         Animation and the Asia-Pacific Region

•         Animation Histories

•         Future Forms of Animation

•         Industrial Methods and Changes

•         Materiality of Animation

•         Algorithmic Animation (including Games)

•         Philosophy and Animation

•         Motion Graphics

•         Scientific Visualisation

•         Contemporary Art and Animation

•         Architecture and Animation

•         Drawing and Animation

•         Web Animation

•         Narrative and Non-Narrative Animation

•         Obsolescence and Questions of Materiality

•         Augmented Reality and Vision

•         Automata (including Robotics)

•         Animation and Pedagogy

•         Documentary and Animation

•         Animation Fringes and Counter-Cultures

•         Sound and Animation

Please include with your individual submission the following:

•         Title and abstract of no more than 250 words (suitable for publication).

•         A brief biographical statement (suitable for publication).

•         Complete contact information, including name, institutional affiliation (if any), postal address, e-mail address and telephone number.

•         A head shot photo of yourself that will be suitable for publication (optional).

For panel proposals of 3-4 presenters, the chair of the panel should submit the following:

•         Overall panel title/theme, plus a 100-word description suitable for publication.

•         Name and contact information for the panel chair.

•         Titles and abstracts for each paper (as noted above).

•         Biography statement for each member (as noted above).

•         Name and contact information for each member (as noted above).

•         Photo of each presenter suitable for publication (optional).

Submit abstracts to: animation.conference@rmit.edu.au
Submission deadline: December 12, 2011
Conference website: http://www.rmit.edu.au/sas2012
Conference Chair: Dr Dan Torre, RMIT University

    >Horror Ad-Nauseam!

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    Image from Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2009) Read Adam Nayman‘s essay on this ‘semiotic zombie film’ at ReverseShot, as well as Steen Christiansen’s article linked to below.

    Film Studies For Free has been somewhat stopped in its tracks by an unseasonal cold. But, sustained by its usual missionary zeal for Open Access film and moving image studies, it rises zombie-like (see above) from its sick bed to bring you news of the latest issue of excellent online journal Cinephile (Vol. 6 No. 2 Fall 2010) on ‘Horror Ad-Nauseam’ (note: link to a very large PDF file, as are all the links below).

    Normal FSFF service will resume on Thursday…

    >War, Conflict and Commemoration in the Age of Digital Reproduction

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    Image from Avalon (Mamoru Oshii, 2001)

    Below are links to some of the most interesting items to have come Film Studies For Free‘s way in the last weeks: a special issue of the high quality online, Open Access journal Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian, and Central European New Media on War, Conflict and Commemoration. Not all of the items are film-related, though most are, in some way (asbtracts are included for easy skimming to see which). And there are two great essays on Mamoru Oshii‘s 2001 film Avalon, which FSFF particularly rated.

    Issue 4, 2010: War, Conflict and Commemoration in the Age of Digital Reproduction (guest-edited by Adi Kuntsman (University of Manchester).)

    4.0 Editorial | Vlad Strukov

    4.1 Online Memories, Digital Conflicts and the Cybertouch of War | Adi Kuntsman 

    This opening essay addresses the political and intellectual necessity that enabled me to assemble this special issue. Firstly, I argue for the need to examine the role of digital media in negotiating and commemorating wars in countries outside of the USA and Western Europe and in languages other than English. Secondly, drawing on some recent developments in research on digital media, on one hand, and war, conflict and commemoration, on the other, I claim the importance of examining the two fields together. I argue for a complex approach that would capture the ways digital media and computer technologies affect the warfare itself, its social perception as well as the ways of remembrance and commemoration. I also present several theoretical concepts – cyberscapes of memory, digital battlefields, the aftermath, passionate politics and the cybertouch of war – and outline the structure of the special issue.

    4.2 The Commemoration of Nazi ‘Children’s Euthanasia’ Online and On Site | Lutz Kaelber

    An integral part of the German National Socialist ‘bio-political developmental dictatorship’ programme (Schmuhl 2008), ‘euthanasia’ involved the murder of over 300,000 physically or mentally disabled persons in National Socialist Germany and its occupied territories, including children in ‘special children’s wards’ (Kinderfachabteilungen). Using the concept of traumascape as past trauma embodied at a site and brought into the present through commemoration, this article analyses the emergence of virtual traumascapes created by local memory agents who use new digital media as a means to represent these crimes and commemorate the victims of ‘special children’s wards’ in Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. This article shows that virtual traumascapes have contributed to a diverse landscape of memory concerning the murder of disabled children and youths described in five case studies. It also briefly discusses their impact on national memory regimes and the future of commemoration. 

    4.3 World War 2.0: Commemorating War and Holocaust in Poland Through Facebook | Dieter De Bruyn 

    The Internet seems to have become the area where instances of individual and collective remembrance, of private and public commemoration, and of memory and postmemory intersect in a new and effective way. This article explores two Polish examples of World War II and Holocaust commemoration that have recently been issued on Facebook: the Warsaw Rising commemorative campaign and the educational project on the young Holocaust victim Henio Zytomirski. As the analysis demonstrates, what determines the value of such online projects is their performative effectiveness. The examination of both examples aims to contribute to the current debate on cultural memory, in which the focus is increasingly on the dynamical and processual character of remembering, rather than on memory as a static product.

    4.4 Past Wars in the Russian Blogosphere: On the Emergence of Cosmopolitan Memory | Elena Trubina 

    In Russia, for decades, the collective memory of World War II has served two major functions. It has provided the major source of legitimatising the state and the ethical ground for sustaining the collective identity of those whose country now is very different from the one defended by their grandparents. Along with the state-imposed versions of the war and tired rituals and clichéd expressions of pride and gratitude, new ways of reflecting on the war began emerging. These are facilitated by new socio-technical practices made possible by globalisation and, in particular, by the Internet. Based on an analysis of selected Russian-language blogs, this article argues that although the nationalistic master narratives continue to function as glue for the nation, they become combined with stories and recollections that are attuned to the growing openness and interconnectedness of the world, problematising exclusionary renderings of the country’s contribution to the victory.

    4.5 Deadly Game along the Wistula: East European Imagery in Oshii’s ‘Avalon’ (2001) | Gérard Kraus 

    Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon stands firmly engrained in the director’s science fiction oeuvre of completely visually controlled films, focusing on a strong female protagonist shown in critical situations. At the same time the film marks Oshii’s return to live action cinema and takes him outside of Asia. This essay seeks to combine biographical information on the director with an aesthetic analysis of some of the images created for the purpose of this film. In particular the essay addresses Oshii’s interests in the relations between futuristic technologies and militarised societies, and his use of Polish and Eastern European imagery. I will argue that their combination can be seen as remediating and recontextualising images of war and conflict for a new generation that, through digital media, has developed a new dynamic relationship with history and the conflicts that build Europe and the world.

    4.6 Oshii’s ‘Avalon’ (2001) and Military-Entertainment Technoculture | Patrick Crogan 

    This essay takes Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon (2001) as a starting point for consideration of the impact of simulational interactive media on contemporary technoculture. The connections made in the film between virtual reality games and military research and development, and its quasi-simulational modelling of various historical ‘Polands’ in re-sequencing a dystopian end of history are the most valuable resources it brings to this study of how simulation’s predominant development represents a major challenge to the forms of critical cultural reflection associated with narrative-based forms of recording and interrogating experience. Analysis of the methods and rhetorics of simulation design in the military-industrial (and now military-entertainment) complex will elaborate the nature and stakes of this challenge for today’s globalising technoculture of ‘militainment’.

    4.7 ‘The Weight of Meaninglessness’ | Naida Zukić 

    The Weight of Meaninglessness is a video performance that evokes the atrocities of the recent Bosnian history in an effort to highlight the ethical urgencies, complexities and paradoxes of externalising trauma within a site that collapses meaning and creates possibilities for the return of traumatic memory. The performance shows the artist violently and continuously scrubbing clean her permanently marked arm, withstanding bodily pain and struggling to breathe. The video also confronts the viewer with Srebrenica Genocide; the images of mass graves render the memory of the atrocity traumatising in its insufferable intensity. In the moment of examining trauma and locating its agency, the artist lays bare the paradox of violent memories that can only be externalised through inflicting violence on oneself. The artist’s essay addresses the historical and ideological conditions under which The Weight of Meaninglessness critiques and exercises violence.

    4.8 ‘Roma Snapshots: A Day in Sarajevo’ | Vanja Čelebičić 

    The recent war in Bosnia-Herzegovina serves as an undercurrent in this short ethnographic film Roma Snapshots: a Day in Sarajevo. The film attempts to enquire into Sarajevan Roma’s sense of identification, belonging and memory. It portrays the daily lives of Roma through snapshots of their concurrent realities, where painful memories, laughter and religious beliefs exist side by side. The film comprises of simultaneous screening of four episodes, drawing attention to the filmmaker’s dilemma of how to best represent her subjects and which aspects of their lives to highlight. The film addresses visual anthropology’s concerns regarding ways of portraying reality and challenges the standard narrative approach to documentary filmmaking. Roma Snapshots: a Day in Sarajevo is accompanied by the filmmaker’s reflexive essay on anthropological filmmaking, digital media and life in post-war zones.

    4.9 The Portrayal of Russian Hackers During Cyber Conflict Incidents | Athina Karatzogianni 

    This article analyses various cyber conflicts and cyber crime incidents attributed to Russian hackers, such as the Estonian and Georgian cyber conflicts and the ‘Climategate hack’. The article argues that Russian hackers were blamed by dozens of outlets for the Climategate hack, because that was consistent with global media coverage of cyber crime incidents which portrayed Russians as highly powerful hackers responsible for many hacking incidents. This narrative also was congruent with the new Cold War rhetoric that consistently takes issue with Russia acting on its geopolitical interests. These interests are seen to manifest themselves in Russia’s objection to countries, formerly under its influence, participating in the NATO alliance and its seemingly obstructive stance at the Copenhagen summit on climate change. 

    4.10 A Study on a Russian-American Non-Reflexive Discourse | Olga Baysha 

    This study investigates one such case study – the outburst of anti-Americanism among Russia Internet users during the Russia-Georgia military crisis of 2008. The paper analyzes the discussions of Washington Post articles at the Washington PostForeign Media Russian Internet site. The study shows that, despite numerous attempts by Russian users to deliver their messages to the American readers, their postings were ignored by the American users and global dialogue did not occur. It is this exclusion from the conversation, together with the denigration of Russia by writers in the United States that led to the intensification of anti-American sentiments among the Russians. The study makes clear that for the establishment of effective global public spheres access to new communication technologies and knowledge of English are inadequate, unless accompanied by the willingness to listen to others and a desire to understand them.   

    4.11 Web Wars: Digital Diasporas and the Language of Memory | Ellen Rutten 

    Web Wars: Digital Diasporas and the Language of Memory in Russia & Ukraine is a three-year research project within the collaborative HERA-funded project Memory at War: Cultural Dynamics in Russia, Poland & Ukraine. Led by Dr Alexander Etkind (Cambridge University), this project zeroes in on the ongoing memory wars between Russia, Ukraine, and Poland – nations where political conflicts take the shape of heated debates about the recent past. For Memory at War, five European universities – Cambridge, Helsinki, Tartu, Groningen and Bergen – cooperate to scrutinize Eastern Europe’s memory wars from varying angles. Web Wars is the Bergen pendant, which focuses on their outlines in digital media, and Russian and Ukrainian social media in particular. This submission maps the project design, methods and research objectives.

    4.12 Book Reviews

    >Dreaming Movies: RIP Satoshi Kon (1963-2010)

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    Image from Ohayo/Good Morning (part of Ani*Kuri15) (Satoshi Kon, 2008) See the video embedded below

    […] Kon fully takes advantage of what makes animated films unique. [His film Paprika (2006)] is ultimately a dream about movies, as well as a movie about dreams. The way characters jump in and out of settings first made me think of Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr., perhaps the original virtual reality movie. One can also easily link Paprika to such films as David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. In another moment that may be a nod to Cronenberg, two of the characters jump into a television screen. Because this is a truly animated film, Kon creates a universe where a long office hallway and walls suddenly undulate with the solidity of a half-filled waterbed, characters in advertisements leap out into other billboards or out into the streets, and giant toy dolls threaten the planet.

    It is the dense and detailed imagery that makes Paprika stand out. Frames are crowded with giant marching frogs, large appliances and living dolls. The goofy spirit of the film is close to the self-refererential work of the Fleischer Brothers‘ earlier work with Koko the Clown and Betty Boop. The story loops around itself like a mobius strip, with dreams and dreams within dreams.

    Paprika, the character, dreams of a street where there are old fashion movie theaters, one of which shows Roman Holiday. Kon even has a character going to a multiplex that is showing nothing but Kon’s previous features on each of the screens. Movies have informed Kon’s films, so that Perfect Blue is an anime thriller that has reminders of Hitchcock, De Palma and Argento. Tokyo Godfathers, with both its plot about an abandoned baby and Christmas setting could well have been inspired by John Ford’s Three Godfathers. While Kon has not cited specific films as influences on Paprika, he did agree with the observation that his new film was “like a collision of Hello Kitty and Philip K.Dick.[Peter Nellhaus, ‘Aurora (Colorado) Asian Film Festival, Part 3’, Coffee coffee and more coffee, June 3, 2007]

    Film Studies For Free was very sad to hear of the untimely death at the age of 46 of Japanese  anime auteur Satoshi Kon. Paprika, the film Peter Nellhaus is referring to above, a complex and densely entertaining oneiric thriller, was one of FSFF‘s author’s favourite animated films of recent years.

    Kon directed his first film, Perfect Blue, in 1997, followed by Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika, and the television series Paranoia Agent. A fifth film, The Dream Machine, is still in production at the time of his death.

    Some great memorial linkage about Kon has been posted in the last few days by David Hudson. But there are not too many online scholarly studies of Kon’s work yet, sadly, though FSFF is sure that will change. For now, then, here are some links to the very worthwhile resources and discussions that have been made freely accessible.

      >On Japanese Cinema

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      Last updated: August 3, 2010

      Film Studies For Free wanted to make sure its readers didn’t miss the video embedded above. It’s another great offering from Fora.tv, this time a very entertaining and informative interview with Donald Richie about his internationally celebrated work on Japanese cinema and culture. FSFF heard of this via David Hudson and the Japan Society Film Blog.

      In addition, FSFF has assembled some links below to openly accessible and very high quality scholarship on Japanese cinema (including numerous full-length studies), with work by Donald Richie, and many other excellent items which are indebted to his studies of Japanese cinema.

      This was quite a broad category to research online, so FSFF will inevitably have missed some good resources: suggestions for any high quality additions are, therefore, even more welcome than usual! (Update: See comments  below for some of these, including the tip to link to Eigagogo’s bookmarks at Delicious which lists some further great resources).